BANGKOK—A key Vietnamese dissident and leader of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) was detained and released in Ho Chi Minh City as he prepared to lead a group of monks to visit the church’s leader, who is under house arrest.
Police detained the Venerable Thich Quang Do at 6:45 p.m. Feb. 16, sources said. An earlier report mistakenly put the time of his detention at 6:45 a.m.
“They carried me exactly like people carrying a pig to the security office of the train station,” Thich Quang Do said in an interview Friday.
At 11 p.m, police told him he had missed the train and should return to his pagoda. Thich Quang Do refused and demanded an explanation for his detention, he said.
Finally, he said, four police officers carried him “like an animal” to a waiting car in which they drove him to his pagoda.
In Hanoi, Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dung denied that the monk had been arrested.
“According to information we have received, Thich Quang Do has not been arrested and now stays at the place where he usually performs his religious practices,” Dung said.
Thich Quang Do, 78, was leading a group of several dozen monks to Binh Dinh province to visit and wish longevity to the UBCV supreme patriarch, the Most Venerable Thich Huyen Quang.
Religious leaders from the banned UBCV face ongoing persecution for their long history of confronting Vietnamese authorities, according to the nonprofit organization Human Rights Watch.
The UBCV was the main Buddhist organization in south and central Vietnam before 1975, when administration of its properties and institutions were taken over by the government.
In 1981 the UBCV was dissolved by the government and replaced with the state-sponsored Vietnam Buddhist Church.
Tensions have risen steadily since between the government and the UBCV, which has not recognized the authority of the Vietnam Buddhist Church, particularly during the 1990s when the government jailed many UBCV monks.